Retro TV and Pearce have us dreaming dreams

No matter what else the television sports year offers up, we think we saw its most delightful touch last Saturday night.

Retro TV and Pearce have us dreaming dreams

When Match of the Day for its 50th anniversary went with retro graphics for the Crystal Palace-West Ham game it confused some younger viewers we know, wondering just what had happened to their screens, but for those of us of a more senior generation the old-school lineouts and old match clock triggered all kinds of memories.

The first brought us back to when we were just seven, and like probably thousands of kids the same age across the country, we’d be tucked into bed at about 9pm on the promise we’d be woken up again around 10.30 to catch Jimmy Hill’s chin, Brian Clough’s lip and, more importantly, Tony Woodcock’s latest goal for the Forest.

And sure enough it always came, that little nudge from the father, then an hour of escapism before the national broadcaster wrapped everything up by midnight with Amhran na bhFiann and that eternal sunset, the cue for bed again.

That’s what we were reared on, supporting Forest because they had a fellow dual player born in the North as I was in Martin O’Neill and who had scored two goals in the first game back after the 1978 World Cup, the Charity Shield. From that 5-0 win over Ipswich on, he was my man, they were my team and on Saturday nights I’d always hope to catch an old graphic with a teamsheet of Shilton, Anderson, Lloyd, Burns, Clarke, O’Neill, Gemmill, McGovern, Robertson, Woodcock, Birtles. Sub: Bowyer.

We found ourselves explaining that one to our younger viewers over the weekend, that back then you only had one sub. We also found ourselves fast-forwarding and rewinding to the dawn of Sky, explaining that it wasn’t until they came on board that the idea of putting the scoreline and timeline in the top left corner of the screen was popularised.

For all their hype and hyperbole and subsequent ridicule, we haven’t forgotten the excitement that Sky’s Alive and Kicking promo generated with us just as that old Match of the Day soundtrack did in our primary school days. The first Premier League game they broadcast live featured Forest against Liverpool, our old rivals from the one-sub days. Captaining Forest that day was Stuart Pearce. Yellow-carded that day was Roy Keane. And the only goalscorer that day was Teddy Sheringham.

We thought Forest were on to something special. That same weekend Manchester United lost 2-1 at Sheffield United with Brian Deane scoring the first goal of the Premiership era. While United had Dion Dublin as their main striker, we had Sheringham, behind him, Keane, and behind him, the bulldog himself, Pearce.

The following week Sheringham was sold to Spurs. By the season’s end the first Premiership side too good to go down would go down. Clough himself would step down and be replaced by the club’s full-back from the old-school lineout days, Frank Clarke, and Keane himself would move on to a club that had Eric Cantona replace Dion Dublin.

Our relationship with Forest and Match of the Day has changed through the years. We were as excited by the signing of Stan Collymore in the summer of ’93 as we were by that of Trevor Francis in ’79 and similarly when we got the call that Brian Roy had joined the newly-promoted Forest a year later. For three glorious months they were as dynamic a duo as the feared and famed SAS of Shearer and Sutton, but then Roy’s form would fade out and Collymore would move on and after finishing third in 94/95 we’d finish in the bottom three just two seasons later.

Since Forest left the Premiership for good in 1998, we can’t claim to have known everyone on the lineup, as sophisticated as those graphics may now be. On Saturday night we honestly could only identify four as Match of the Day segued into The Football Show as Forest took on Reading. We’ve been through more managers than Mario Balotelli and Peter Withe combined have had clubs. But the heart warmed as we watched.

In Selhurst Park as Barry Davies and those graphics went all retro was Teddy Sheringham, now West Ham forwards coach 22 years on from scoring that opening goal on Sky. Roy Keane was in a dugout too at Villa.

And above all the skipper from that opening-day win over Liverpool was now back as manager at the City Ground again. Forest would thump Reading 4-0 on Saturday.

It wasn’t quite beating United by a similar scoreline at Old Trafford back in 77-78 but there was something exciting and bold and fresh about Forest. We’ll never have that schoolboy or even college-going enthusiasm again for the Forest — you’d either have to be living in Nottingham or stunted to maintain that fervour — but in going back to Pearce they’ve reconnected with passion and reignited more than ours judging by the City Ground crowds.

Last Saturday night Pearce had us dreaming football dreams again.

He’ll have us back on Match of the Day again.

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